U-20 World Cup Storylines
The first set of group games is in the books from Egypt and here are the emerging storylines.
- Argentina, the two time defending champion did not quality for this event. As we have seen thus far, COMNEBOL’s depth at the youth level is so strong, Argentina’s failure can be properly explained by the regions amazing quality at the youth level more than the failure of this class of Argentine youth players
- CONCACAF, save Honduras has been terrible. The US are serial qualifiers for this event and have advanced beyond the group stage six consecutive U-20 tournaments, but the Americans looked badly out-gunned versus a watered down Germany team. Costa Rica looked even worse, if possible and after a promising start, T&T collapsed in the second half versus the host Egypt.
- England has a deep class of good youth players. The inability of the English FA to tap the team that actually qualified for this event due to the Football League and Premier League seasons made many think England would be destroyed in this tournament. But the young three lions held their own against a very good Uruguay team, finally conceding a wonder goal late.
- My prediction of an African winner this go round (noting Argentina’s absence and the trouble Germany, Italy and England have had with their clubs) will be severely tested. While the results were alright for African sides in the first set of group matches, the performances were not up to the level, I expected. Nigeria in particular was disappointing in a loss to Venezuela, while Ghana’s struggles with Uzbekistan were also surprising.
- Thanks to ESPN in the US for once again allowing us to see all these matches. Unlike 2007 when most were on TV thanks to a slow summer schedule in college sports (ESPN U), this time we’re forced to use ESPN360.com, but the bottom line is that the matches are accessible and that is a good thing.